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Mothballed plant

Robert Wilson (no relation to the paleoclimatologist of the same name I assume) has examined the amount of mothballed capacity in the UK energy market, and concludes that there is 4GW or so, enough to raise the safety margin from 5% of demand to 10%.

There is a potential problem, however, in that, operators don't actually want to unmothball their gas-fired plant at the moment. With renewables so grossly inefficient, the playing field has been tipped so far against the fossil fuel operators that nobody is going to risk a sou in the UK market. The hope seems to be that gas operators will be made eligible for a bung too and will be encouraged to play ball again. The government and their environmentalist advisers in DECC are presumably only too aware that this is going to mean that they will be handing out subsidies to both renewables firms and to fossil fuel generators. Selling this to the public as part of a sane energy policy is going to be a struggle, I think.

And whether it will be enough to actually get anyone to play along remains to be seen. Investors in new capacity have already largely been scared off, refusing to believe that the government will be able to get taxpayers to agree to vast subsidies and guaranteed profits gifted to politically connected energy businesses, while at the same time getting them to swallow sustained long-term rises in energy prices. Will operators of mothballed plant see the situation differently? It's possible - the capital costs are sunk after all - so if they are thrown some cash to reopen perhaps they will go for it. But then again, for the cost of unmothballing to be incurred, the generators are going to need some guarantee that they will get a return. That depends on the taxpayer swallowing the costs and the slap in the face of the new subsidy regime.

It's a mad, bad, crazy system. Who'd want to risk their money in it?

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Reader Comments (25)

The UK Energy Minister (?) was on TV today saying that the UK has not got enough "renewable" energy on line to allow us to build coal fired power stations (but Germany can - because they have met their mad renewable goals already) - so we have to shut our coal fired stations down until we have delivered on our "legal" renewable obligations and then we can build more coal fired power stations ........................... how bizarre!!

Robert Thomson

Jun 30, 2013 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Thomson

Selling this to the public as part of a sane energy policy is going to be struggle I think

As i have said frequently, the british public is thick as 2 short planks, généralement. They are dead easy to fool as has been proved umpteen times before.

Most don't know what a policy is except for their insurances and as for strategic planning, forget it. The Sun newspaper everyday no problem.

Jun 30, 2013 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

This was all known about back in 2009, when a detailed report was prepared by Poyry, which highlighted exactly the financial implications associated with this 'dash for wind energy' in the UK and Ireland:

For me the intriguing aspects was that the Irish State owned Grid company, Eirgrid, participated on this study. The same company, which was provided with a €4 billion budget to double the Irish high voltage grid by an extra 5,000 km to facilitate the wind energy programme. Yet they refused to answer an access to information on the environment requests on the above study:

They were asked about this again by one of the National papers in late 2012, but came up with: "A spokesperson for Eirgrid said that they could not release the studies findings as they were commercially sensitive".

By the way, National Grid in the UK also participated in the study, maybe somebody will consider sending them in an request under the UK's 2004 Environmental Information Regulations?

Jun 30, 2013 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterPat Swords

Not sure I can understand this thinking: companies are reluctant to instigate “normal” power stations as they will get subsidies and be able to sell the power at higher prices because of insane government policies, as the tax-payer may get wind of this, and rebel?

Surely, this is assuming that those totally immersed in BGT, BB and Strictly Get Me Out Of Voice On Ice, for whom the onerous task of thinking has been wholly allocated to the gubmint, are going to raise their empty heads and realise exactly what that pain in their backside really is.

Jun 30, 2013 at 10:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Lewis Carroll and Jonathon Swift would have had a field day, but at least we have Boris.
The madness must end, please and pretty please.
Street marches as in Egypt? and I'm a 65+ reserved and retired doctor !
So Depressing.

Jun 30, 2013 at 10:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterG.Watkins

How can we be so relentlessly, recklessly stupid as to be actually closing power stations - any power stations regardless of circumstances, before replacemenet energy sources are up and running? It's beyond me.

All to keep Brussels & the EU happy? It's simply insane.

If ever any decisions by politicians was so poor as to render them liable for prosecution, this must be a strong candidate.

Jun 30, 2013 at 11:06 PM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

EU Referendum points out that for some time now the government has been encouraging the owners of large backup power generators - hospitals and such like - to turn their backup power (usually dirty diesel generators) on when requested and supply power to the Grid.

Backup generator owners need to test them regularly, so they are happy to be paid to have a continual test process, and the horrible variation that 'renewable' power provides can be mitigated somewhat in this way.

Of course, it is hugely inefficient, hugely polluting and hugely costly - but hey, it's green! And the taxpayers are paying anyway. And no one either understands or cares about the technical engineering issues associate with providing electricity. No one important, that is...

Jun 30, 2013 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

@Pat Swords

Good you're back here

Could you update us on the current status of your case please ?

The last I heard was some months ago when the Irish High Court was struggling to find a way to "neutralise" you

Jul 1, 2013 at 12:11 AM | Unregistered Commenterianl8888

@cheshirered 11:06pm

Look carefully at the ambit definition of treason. It relates only to threats to the State, not threats from the State

It's all very cute

Jul 1, 2013 at 12:16 AM | Unregistered Commenterianl8888

As far as I can see the list in the original article does not include the almost-new gas plant at Peterhead. Although it is an 1800MW plant, it is running at only about 400MW due to restrictions on grid access (lack of transmission capacity and priority given to wind output, when it runs). So there is a bit more capacity which could be brought into service simply by providing access.

Jul 1, 2013 at 12:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikeH

Why should the owners of these mothballed plants bring them online? They have already suffered losses, the plants do not function correctly unless they are run at optimum output the whole time. Why run the plant at a level that damages it just for a subsidy?
Just like the revelation this weekend that Cameron organised and used our taxes to fund demonstrations to support foreign aid (and make Cameron look good on the world stage); continuing to push for a low carbon economy has only one benefit. Cameron gets to strut about telling everybody what a goody two shoes he is even though fossil fuel burning by the rest of the world makes any action by the UK utterly meaningless.

Jul 1, 2013 at 1:20 AM | Registered CommenterDung

The Gubmint is been trying to get back-up power stations built using the newly invented 'Capacity Mechanism'. The owners will be incentivised to build them with the promise of subsidies not to operate them when the wind blows and subsidies to operate them when the wind stops blowing. Crazy does not come close to describing the UK energy 'policy'.

Jul 1, 2013 at 6:42 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Remind us who has swallowed the cost of nuclear since the 50s, and who will continue to swallow the cost of it's clean up for the next several hundreds of years?

It is predicted that 50% of all deaths will very soon be from cancers. Radioactivity is a factor in cancers. The data on childhood leukemia clusters is locked down stamped secret, why?

The only danger from renewable's is if a turbine falls on your head.

Nuclear has sucked up resources for far to long. Alternatives must be given the same priorities, the powerful corrupt nuclear lobby would have it all stopped, as you so willfully demonstrate.

Jul 1, 2013 at 7:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterHenBroon

Do you want my address HenBroon? If it gets through Customs, I'd like a bit of what you're smoking.

Jul 1, 2013 at 8:30 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

The lunatics truly have taken over the Asylum.

Jul 1, 2013 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

The entire energy policy package of this government is so crazy, that subsidising both fossil fuel and renewable producers would fit in perfectly.

Jul 1, 2013 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

AlecM - The lunatics truly have taken over the Asylum.

Alec, I used to think that too but my view now is that Criminals have taken over. The establishment is now full of self serving, vacuous fraudsters who care little for the damage that they inflict on ordinary folk, but who seem most adapt at lining their own pockets. I can appreciate that these sorry people don't have the integrity or principles to avoid resisting temptation while in Office, but what makes me really angry is that they do it in full view and seem to think that they are entitled to play the system for their gain.

Jul 1, 2013 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterLosferwords

@ IanI8888

The below is an update of the situation in the Irish High Court:

The Judicial Review was in front of the President of the High Court Justice Kearns on Tuesday the 16th April for the morning and afternoon session, plus for the afternoon session on the previous Friday (2012/920JR Swords v Minister of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources). The State failed in its bid to have the case thrown out on the basis of undue delay, relating to the fact that the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) was notified to the EU Commission back on the 30th June 2010, although the Aarhus Convention was not ratified by Ireland until June 2012 and came into effect 90 days later.

The case law on the Slovakian referral to the ECJ (C-240/09 LZ) helped add clarity, as previously the High Court here in Ireland had refused to recognise the Aarhus Convention, as our parliament (Oireachtas) had not ratified it. Indeed an appellant in a Judicial Review of a planning decision, Volkmar Klohn, ended up in 2011 with having to pay €86,000 of the Planning Appeals Board's costs, as Justice Hedigan ruled that the Convention could not be relied upon in this jurisdiction [2011] IEHC 196.

However, it was accepted on this occasion by Justice Kearns that the Convention had full legal effect here in Ireland since its ratification by the EU in February 2005 and the High Court had to give recognition to its rights since that point. Furthermore, in relation to plans and programmes on the Environment, namely Article 7 of the Convention, for which there was clearly evidence of a breach as provided by the findings and recommendations of the UNECE Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, this Article 7 of the Convention was not time limited. It was therefore not appropriate to continue with this programme on renewable energy if this breach was substantiated. This was irregardless of the fact that Article 7 did not have a direct codification in Community law; the Courts had to ensure its implementation in Ireland.

Given that it was now accepted that the Convention applied from the 2005 ratification date, the Judicial Review mechanism of a programme submitted to the EU on the 30th June 2010 was not considered appropriate, so the the case will now proceed on the basis of a Plenary Summons for an injunction on the further continuation of the NREAP, for which leave has been granted. Therefore, the case came back to the High Court for mention on the 18th June, see attached. The State has until the 16th July to have their Statement of Opposition submitted to the matters raised, although they intend to submit a Notice for Particulars in the meantime:

Note: The State consistently refused to prepare a Statement of Opposition to the substance raised in the preliminary phase in relation to the Judicial Review. The following claims are being made in the Plenary Summons Statement of Claim:

A declaration that the Defendants have, in contravention of the Convention on Access To Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters done at Aarhus, Denmark, on 25 June 1998 (“the Aarhus Convention”) and in contravention of the law of the European Union failed to adopt a proper regulatory framework for implementation of Article 7 of the Aarhus Convention.

In addition to 1 above, a declaration that the Defendants have ,in contravention of the Convention on Access To Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters done at Aarhus, Denmark, on 25 June 1998 (“the Aarhus Convention”) and in contravention of the law of the European Union and in contravention of the law of the State, failed, to have in place proper public participatory procedures, contrary to Article 7 of the Aarhus Convention. Such framework would provide, in accordance with the requirements of Article 6 of the Aarhus Convention (and in accordance with the law of the European Union and of the State) reasonable time frames allowing sufficient time for informing the public to prepare and participate effectively.

A declaration that (a) the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) submitted by Ireland purportedly pursuant to Article 4 of Directive 2009/28/EC to the Commission of the European Union and (b) the Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff (REFIT) scheme; and or (c) the Energy Policy Framework 2007 – 2020 (collectively “the plans or programmes”) were adopted in contravention of the Convention on Access To Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters done at Aarhus, Denmark, on 25 June 1998 (“the Aarhus Convention”) and in contravention of the law of the European Union and of the law of the State. In addition and consequently a Declaration that the plans and programmes at (a) to (c) above are null and void and of no legal effect.

A declaration that the Defendants have, in the circumstances complained of in these proceedings, failed to take such necessary legislative, regulatory and or other measures, to ensure proper and adequate implementation of the provisions of the Aarhus Convention.

A declaration that the Defendants have in contravention of Articles 4 and 5 of the Aarhus Convention (and by reason of the breach of Article 7 set out above) and contrary to the law of the European Union failed to provide access to information requested by the Applicant concerning the NREAP adopted by the Defendant.

In the alternative and in the event that it is held that the above matters are not justiciable or that this Honourable Court may make no order(s) in respect thereof, a declaration that the law, rules and procedures in the State concerning the complaints made by the Plaintiff have, contrary to Article 9 of the Aarhus Convention and/or contrary to Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (in respect of a matter within the scope of the law of the European Union and concerning the rights enshrined by Articles 37, 41 and 42 of the Charter) failed to provide the Plaintiff with an effective remedy.

An order prohibiting the Defendants from relying upon the plans and programmes set out at paragraph 3 hereof insofar as the said plans and programmes may inform any decisions made concerning the Defendants or third parties until such time as the same plans and programmes (or any new iterations thereof) conform to the requirements of the Aarhus Convention and the law of the European Union.

An order directing that in so far as the Defendant adopts or implements the said plans or programmes Defendant it does so in compliance with the Aarhus Convention and, inter alia: (a) providing access to all relevant information about the said plans or programmes; (b) providing adequate arrangements for public participation in the adoption of the said plans of programmes; (c) taking due account of the public participation in the adoption of the final plan or programme; (d) carrying out a Strategic Environmental Assessment according to Directive 2001/42/EC;

A declaration that the Defendants have in respect of the adoption of NREAPs and by choosing to incorporate a process for participation contained in Directive 2009/28/EC as opposed to Directive 2001/42/EC failed to comply with the law of the European Union and of the State.

A protective Costs Order in respect of the Plaintiffs costs to be made at an interlocutory stage of the proceedings.

An order providing the Plaintiff with an Order for Costs of the within proceedings and in respect of proceedings between the parties under record number 2012 No.920 JR.

Jul 1, 2013 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterPat Swords

On this very day exactly 10 years ago, BBC's Today programme had an item on a report by the Institution of Civil Engineers, which said that "by the year 2020, Britain will face an almost routine threat of serious power cuts".

There's a transcript of it, here:

Energy Minister Stephen Timms:

I think we've taken good account, in the White Paper, of the changing energy requirements and the patterns of supply, over the next 20 years. There are some major issues for us to address, but I think we're on track for doing so.

At the end of the interview:

Edward Stourton: Your response to this report is "Jolly interesting, but thanks very much, we'll go on as we are."

Stephen Timms: I think we're well set to achieve the diversity that the report rightly says we're going to need.

Ten years ago, to the day.

Jul 1, 2013 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

Jul 1, 2013 at 7:46 AM | HenBroon

Who's going to pay for cleaning up the cosmos? 90% of the radiation that you will ever receive comes from that source. Unless you get ill, of course, then you will take massive amounts of radiation in an effort to make yourself better. One CT scan, taking a few minutes, is about 5-10 years worth of the radiation you receive from the sky. I should stay away from planes, anything granite (hard to do in Scotland), bananas and mineral water if you're terrified of radiation - and don't ever get ill.

PS you may wish to consider a lead hat rather than the tinfoil one.

Jul 1, 2013 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

In the province of Ontario in Canada, the same renewable problem is occurring. Gas operators have been given 'take or pay" contracts. That is they are paid for the full potential output of their plants even if that is not being used. So the consumer has to pay twice. Firstly they pay the high guaranteed price for any renewable energy that is generated and secondly they have to pay for the gas generated power that it displaces. The government of Ontario says that this makes sense.

Jul 1, 2013 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom Gray

The province of Ontario in Canada has entered into a massive renewable energy project. Renewables are guaranteed high prices and the province must take this power even if there is no demand for it. Often times, there is an excess of power and the excess renewable power must be sold into neighbouring provinces and states at the spot price. So power generated at a guaranteed 80 cent/KWH must be sold fro a few pennies. or also commonly, the spot price becomes negative and Ontario or more properly the Ontario rate payer must pay other administrations to take this unneeded power of their hands.

The Ontario government set up the Green Plan as a new industrial strategy for the province. They said it makes sense.

Jul 1, 2013 at 11:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom Gray

@Pat Swords 12:35pm

Thank you for the update and the links

My summary view is that the State is still struggling to find a way to shut you down, rather than address the substance of the issue ... this means they're now s**t-scared !

I saw with alarm the EUD86k that someone else copped for costs before Treaty ratification. You've been spared that, thank goodness, but is there still a chance, likelihood even, of costs knocking you out ? The State would much prefer that, of course

A truly wonderful story :)

Jul 2, 2013 at 12:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterianl8888


Poor Volkmar Klohn got hit for €86,000 of the State's cost plus had to carry his own for the pleasure of exerting his rights as an EU citizen in what passes for a justice system in Ireland. In my case the law has been changed somewhat so that each side carries their own costs unless ruled otherwise. This does not meet the Convention and EU law's requirement of 'not prohibitively expensive'.

In many respects I'm having to 'push the boat out' on forcing compliance with this, as well as the injunction on the renewable energy programme. Comes with the territory; Ireland is after all a 'banana republic' rather than a functioning democracy - fortunately you don't have to be Irish to know that anymore, even Merkel was aghast at tapes of the behaviour of Irish Bankers, which came out over the last week or two.

Jul 2, 2013 at 9:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterPat Swords

Coal plants are being mothballed too.

The lights will stay on, but all sorts of EU directives will be broken.

Jul 3, 2013 at 8:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

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